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1998 Yankees Diary, July 15: Irabu shines as offense pours it on

The Yankees crushed the Tigers on this day in 1998.

Yankees’ pitcher Hideki Irabu in dugout during game against Photo by Linda Cataffo/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

The 1998 Yankees were firing pretty much all season, but they especially came out firing after the All-Star break. Starting in the first game back on July 9th, the Yankees won five of their first six games, as they outscored opponents 29-11.

However, their best performance in that post-break stretch came in a dominant win in their seventh game of it.

July 15: Yankees 11, Tigers 0 (box score)

Record: 67-21, .761 (15 GA)

Opening up a two-game set in Detroit against the Tigers, the Yankees sent Hideki Irabu to the mound. After an impressive first couple months of the season, Irabu had struggled in recent games. Over his previous four starts, his ERA was 9.00 as he had allowed opposing hitters to OPS 1.246 off him over 17 combined innings. However, on this day he got back to his early season form, throwing four scoreless frames to start the outing.

Early on though, Tigers starter Seth Greisinger was matching Irabu. The Yankees didn’t get a baserunner until a Dale Sveum single in their ninth at-bat of the game. Finally in the fifth, the offense got something going. With two runners on and nobody out, Ricky Ledee plated a run with a double. After that, two-straight sacrifice flies from Sveum and Chuck Knoblauch scored two more runs. An inning later, RBI hits from Tim Raines and Chad Curtis put the Yankees up five runs.

While they wouldn’t be done after that, it turns out that was plenty more runs than needed with the way Irabu was pitching. In total, Irabu would go eight innings, allowing no runs on five hits and three walks. After the game, Yankees players and coaches were full of praise for the pitcher’s performance. Sveum was among those playing behind him that noted that it seemed like his velocity had ticked up a notch, allowing his stuff to mow through the Tigers’ lineup. However, before he finished up his outing, the Yankees’ offense had a parting gift for him in the form of a lot of run support.

In the top of the eighth inning, a Raines walk was immediately followed by a Jorge Posada homer. After one batter was retired, Ledee and Sveum each recorded singles, bringing Knoblauch to the plate. He added another home run, getting the Yankees into double digits for the game. Paul O’Neill added one last homer for the road when he launched a solo blast two batters after that. The onslaught left one young Tigers fan befuddled.

There was a bit of a notable moment after that when Tino Martinez was hit by a pitch right after the O’Neill home run. If you recall from a few months ago, Martinez getting hit by Armando Benítez right after a home run by a teammate was what kicked off the famous Yankees-Orioles brawl. Martinez scowled a bit at pitcher Dean Crow, but there weren’t any fisticuffs this time. It was the third pitch of the at-bat and Crow was a rookie fighting to carve out a role for himself in the majors — although 1998 would be his only season there — so there’s a decent chance it wasn’t intentional. That being said, considering that Martinez had to miss a couple days after the earlier incident, you can understand why he wouldn’t have been too pleased.

Replacing Irabu for the ninth was Mike Buddie. He got through the inning to ensure the shutout, working around a two-out walk.